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Athens - Greece

Updated: Jul 18, 2020

In February I visited Athens, not long before Covid 19 hit the planet on a huge scale! It was a good time to visit due to less tourists, which I think was more due to it being off season than the virus having had such an effect on tourism at the time. The weather was good, obviously it wasn't hot, but it was warm enough to walk around in a light jacket.

Athens had been somewhere I'd wanted to visit for a while, as I have a love for all types of mythology, and I thought it would be interesting to visit the many ancient temples which still remain.

There were similarities to Rome, with the ancient ruins standing in a modern city, but I'd have to say I preferred Rome to Athens. I felt that Rome had a lot more to offer and was more beautiful than Athens as a whole.

Still, I enjoyed exploring the city, and the local cuisine was certainly a hit. Not only was the food delicious, but the hospitality of the restaurants I visited were incredibly friendly!

If you plan to visit more than just the Acropolis, make sure you buy an Athens City pass which will allow you into 6 of the sights over a few days. It's much cheaper and quicker than paying for individual tickets at each site.




Acropolis

The most popular tourist attraction in the city is of course the Acropolis. Visiting in February at the crack of dawn, I was lucky to avoid the crowds and have the area mostly to myself. I've heard that later in the day and especially during the warmer months, this place can be heaving with a lengthy queue to enter. So my advice is to get here before it opens. There's quite a lot to see around the site, but the centre piece will of course be the Parthenon, which is quite a sight to see. During my visit it appeared this was being refurbished at one side due to the metal scaffolding by it, but I have heard this is often the case and has been for many years, so you'll be lucky to see it without such scaffolding.

The other sight I found to be stunning whilst at the Acropolis was the Odeon of Herodes Atticus. It can only be viewed from above, and you can't actually enter, but it is quite beautiful.

Make sure you see everything else here, including the Erechtheion, Temple of Athena Nike and the Theatre of Dionysus. There are of course many great views from up here over Athens, but I think the better views are elsewhere in the city with the Acropolis seen from afar.

There's also an Acropolis museum which can be found south of the Acropolis which features many artefacts from the archaeological site.



Ancient Agora of Athens

A large archaeological site to the north west of the Acropolis. There's quite a lot to see here, although very little remains of the original structures. That is excluding the Temple of Hephaestus which is in very good condition, I think because it was constantly used throughout it's history, most notably as a church for many years. This is probably the one structure in all of Athens you'll see which has retained such a condition. Amongst the ruins you'll come across the remains of other temples, statues and even ancient offices.



Temple of Olympian Zeus

Only 15 columns remain of the 104 which supported the once largest temple in Greece. Although not much remains, it's still quite an impressive sight to see. This comes under one of the sights in which you can use the use the Athens City Pass for, so make sure you add it to your list of places to see.

I visited just before it closed, which was a good time as there were less tourists and the light from the low sun gave great lighting for some nice photographs.



Hadrian's Arch

Whilst you're at the Temple of Olympian Zeus make sure you don't miss Hadrian's Arch. They are situated very close to one another. Apparently the arch was build to celebrate the arrival of the Roman emperor Hadrian who had invested much money and gifts into the city of Athens. Although it's not the most amazing sight in Athens, it's still worth a quick look if you're in the area.





Panathenaic Stadium

Originally built in 330 BC, it was where nude male athletes would compete during the Panathenaia celebrations. Also the site of the first modern Olympic Games in 1896, it's now used more for ceremonial events and concerts.

This was one of the first sights I visited, and I wish I'd bought the Athens City Pass here. I decided just to view the stadium from the outside as I could see it from outside, and the entrance price seemed pointless. However I later bought an Athens City Pass for all the other sights, and it would have been nice to enter so that I could run around the track.



Roman Agora

One of the smaller area of ruins in the city, you'll likely pass this on your way up to the Acropolis if you're entering from the north. The most noticeable structures here are the Gate of Athena Archegetis and the Tower of the Winds, an ancient meteorological station.

Most of the ruins can be seen as you walk up the hill nearby, so I wouldn't bother paying to enter this sight, but if you have an Athens City Pass, take your time to look around inside.



Syntagma Square

One of the main Squares in the city where one of the most frequently used metro stations can also be found.

Although usually bustling with people, it's a nice area to sit and chill out. There's a fountain in the centre before the large staircase that leads up to the Hellenic Parliament building.

You'll find the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in front of the parliament building, where you can watch the changing of the guard every hour.



Mount Lycabettus

A great viewpoint to take in Athens is Mount Lycabettus. This is located further away from most other attractions, but Hadrian's Reservoir is close by.

You can hike up which usually takes around half an hour, but if you're used to hiking then you'll probably be at the top within 20 minutes. You can also use the Funicular Railway, which should only take a few minutes, but try as I might I couldn't seem to find as it.

The view from up here is magnificent, you'll see the Acropolis, Panathenaic Stadium and several other sights, although they are very far away.

There's a restaurant and a small church at the top, which you can go into of if you wish.



Areopagus

Translated it means "Hill of Ares" , where Ares was said to have been tried by the gods for the murder of Poseidon's son Halirrhothius. You'll pass this rocky hill as you make your way to the Acropolis from the north. I'd suggest swinging by here for some wonderful views. You'll get some nice views of the Acropolis itself, although there are better viewpoints for the Acropolis elsewhere. This is a great place to see the rest of Athens from up high, which is especially beautiful in the early morning.



360 Cocktail Bar

A nice place to chill out as the sun sets is in this rooftop bar located by Monastiraki Square. It's a little tricky to find the entrance, but if you walk south from the square, the small street here will have a narrow entrance to the bar on the right hand side. It's then a climb up several flights of stairs before you get to the top. It's a little pricey here, but you'll get a great view of the Acropolis as the sun sets. That's if you're not already sick of seeing the Acropolis so frequently.



The Pnyx

The Pnyx is a hill located south west of the Acropolis. It was originally the official meeting place of the Athenian democratic assembly. Much of the structure still remains, including the steps, and you can climb on quite a lot of the stone remains. It's from here that you will get a different view of the Acropolis, especially during sunrise if you're happy to start early.

Whilst you're in this area there are quite a few other small sights to see in this park, such as the Prison of Socrates, Sanctuary of Pan and the Monument of Philopappos.



Hadrian's Reservoir

It's quite easy to miss this interesting sight, being hidden away, you'll only know it's there if you've heard about it beforehand. Located beneath a movie theatre on Pl. Dexamenis you'll find a 2000 year old reservoir.

Unfortunately the only way to actually see it is by looking through a window, it's not possible to actually go inside, so you'll probably only spend a minute or so looking at it. Still, I considered it to be quite an impressive sight. It's quite far from other sights so I wouldn't recommend wasting time here if you're not in the area. However, it's quite close to Mount Lycabettus, so if you're near here, then swing by to take a quick look.



Little Kook

This large restaurant is quite an interesting place to visit. Mainly selling cakes and sweet treats, but there are also sandwiches and savoury pancakes on offer. What makes this restaurant different is it's fairytale theme. On the street outside you'll notice a stage coach, and on the roof sits a dragon. There are several neighbouring cafes with other themes, such as a circus themed cafe, and the streets in the area all fit in with the fairytale atmosphere. Little Kook is of course the main restaurant in the chain, and it can get very busy. On my visit during February, it was still decked out in Christmas decorations with the staff dressed as elves. I can't say I've ever seen anywhere decorated so heavily, I don't think there was a space anywhere inside that didn't have tinsel, a Christmas ornament or flickering light. There were several different rooms, but due to the Christmas decorations it was hard to tell what these would usually be, but I have since found out that there is a Cinderella room, an Alice in Wonderland room and a Jack and the Beanstalk room.

Apparently at Halloween the restaurant is decked out in Halloween decorations, I would image on the same scale as Christmas time.

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